Taproot Theatre Presents “Room Service” a Broadway Success that Became a Marx Brothers Comedy

It’s the middle of the Depression, and here we have a theatre group holed up in a Manhattan hotel readying their play for production. They’ve not paid for the rooms, nor have they paid for the copious amounts of food they’ve consumed. And their bank account is hovering around zero.

The sharp talking, desperate, and devious producer must con his way into a few more nights and a few more meals just until a backer for the play appears. Then, of course, all debts will be paid, the play will be a huge success, and he’ll be rolling in money, and maybe the others will too. We know, that’s not what’s going to happen in this comedy that ran on Broadway for over a year in 1937 before it became a Marx Brothers movie.

Eric Hampton, Melanie Hampton, Daniel Stoltenberg, Erwin Galán and Christopher Moron in Room Service at Taproot Theatre. Photo by Erik Stuhaug.

When you think of the Marx Brothers you think of farce, wonderful, split-second timing. This production of “Room Service” is certainly funny but it isn’t quite farce. Directed by Karen Lund, the laughs come, lots of them, but a little too slowly and without the zaniness, or enough of that physical humor that the Marx Brothers brought to all of their comedies.

The acting is good, just not goofy enough. Erwin Galán as Gordon, the scheming producer who will bend, if not break, every rule to get this play off the ground, is a sharp talking con man driven by, what to him, is the most honorable of goals—mounting the play. If the hotel bellman is a thwarted actor, then encourage him, promise him a try out, but insist on the delivery of a banquet load of food before the tryout can take place. Offer to write in a role if it will encourage a prospective backer to turn over the desperately needed check. If there’s a body, hide it in the bathtub, and make sure the door stays closed.

Galán’s encounters with Mike Spee as Joseph Gribble the beleaguered hotel manager work well and are among the funniest in the play. Poor Gribble doesn’t stand a chance against the fast talking theatre producer.

There’s not enough frenzy or slamming doors for me in this production, but it brought loud and frequent guffaws from most of the audience. So, while not quite farce, it’s a funny play and obviously pleased the audience the night I was there.

Through March 4 at Taproot Theatre, 204 N. 85th St., Seattle, (206-781-9705 or taproottheatre.org)

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